Climate History: Understanding drivers of conflict and violence in Medieval Ireland, Francis Ludlow, History
Francis Ludlow’s study of 1200 years of monastic chronicles from medieval Ireland reveals a strong relationship between violence and conflict and episodes of abrupt climate change. A paper he recently co-authored with Michael Sigl in Nature, produced a new chronology of volcanic eruptions dating back 2,500 years, some of which appear synchronous with cooling periods and drought that impacted Ireland and other civilizations around the world. J.G. Manning speaks Tuesday on his collaboration with Francis that is helping him re-write the history of ancient Egypt
At Yale, Francis works with Prof. Benedict Kiernan of the Department of History and Prof. Michael R Dove of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, on a project entitled Climate as Catalyst in 1,224 Years of Violence and Conflict in Ireland, 425-1649 CE. This aims to exploit Ireland’s rich record of medieval chronicles to reconstruct the incidence of a wide array of violence and conflict, including battles, slave and cattle raids, burning of crops and settlements, and the killings of secular and ecclesiastical elites. Such events are recorded systematically in the chronicles on an annual basis, and thereby provide an opportunity to examine the influence of extreme weather, natural hazards and abrupt climatic changes (as registered in natural climate proxies such as the Irish oak tree-ring record) on violence and conflict in a complex agrarian society across a twelve-century period.
Before coming to Yale, Francis held the position of Carson Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU Munich, 2013-2014). From 2011 to 2013 he was a Ziff Environmental Fellow with the Harvard University Center for the Environment where he worked with Prof. Michael McCormick of the Department of History and the Initiative for the Science of the Human Past at Harvard on a project entitled Unifying High-Resolution Records of Environmental and Societal Stresses for Ireland, 425-1650 CE, combining Irish annalistic and tree-ring records with ice-core records. From 2012 to 2013 he was a Research Affiliate of the Harvard University Center for Geographic Analysis, and from 2011 to 2013 held the position of Research Associate with the Trinity Long Room Hub. From 2009 to 2011 Francis was a pre and postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Trinity Long Room Hub, and from 2007 to 2011 lectured in the Department of Geography, School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin. He has also lectured in Dublin City University and St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, Dublin, and guest lectured in the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. From 2009 to 2011 he was Treasurer of the Irish Quaternary Association. In 2006, he was a Visiting Scholar with the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen’s University, Belfast. There he worked with Prof. Mike Baillie and Mr. David Brown on a comparison of historic weather extremes and the Irish oak dendrochronological record. Francis has also worked in University College Cork (2008-2009) with Dr. Paul Leahy and Prof. Ger Kiely as part of the Extreme Weather, Climate and Natural Disasters in Ireland project, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland. Francis obtained a B.A. in Geography and Economics from Trinity College Dublin in 2003, a Postgraduate Diploma in Statistics from Trinity College Dublin in 2005, and a PhD in Geography from Trinity College Dublin in 2011. His PhD thesis is entitled The Utility of the Irish Annals as a Source for the Reconstruction of Climate.